Champaign School Board welcomes two new members

By Shannon Smith

The Champaign School Board had a bittersweet night Monday as it bid farewell to two outgoing members and greeted two incoming members who were winners of the April 5 election for board seats.

David Sholem and Jeff Wampler departed after serving one four-year terms each for the board. Sholem chose not to run for re-election, while Wampler fell short of the winning margin – losing his bid for re-election.

Savoy resident Arlene Blank and Champaign resident David Tomlinson were initiated as the newest members of the board, as incumbent Nicole Storch – the top vote-getter in the election – returned for her fourth term on the school board, the longest of the current members.

Storch said she is known for the being straightforward with the public – something she said they seem to appreciate.

“I’m a straight shooter. What you see is what you get,” Storch said. “Parents and tax payers have a certain comfort level with that.”

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Storch said she believes her edge comes from having experience as an employee in the district since 1968. She was a teacher and dean of students in Unit 4 before retiring in 1993 and was also the parent of two children who went through school in the district.

While Blank might be new to the board, she, too, is no stranger to the district. She worked in education for 37 years – 29 for the Champaign School District – and retired in 2002 as assistant superintendent for support services.

“I think I bring a lot of knowledge about public education and a lot of knowledge to the district,” Blank said in an interview before the April 5 elections.

Tomlinson, an engineer for the Champaign Fire Department, has also worked in the district teaching fire and water safety to the schools. He said he was thrilled to see support for his campaign translate into votes.

“I was very excited and humbled that 2,700 plus people voted for me,” Tomlinson said. “I think it was a clear indication that people are concerned about some things that happened in the district over the last few years and are ready for some change.”

Tomlinson, a father of two children in the district, said he has been learning every day to try and catch up with those who have been in the district for many years.

“I’ve been reading a tremendous amount,” Tomlinson said. “I’ve been keeping up with the district’s Web site everyday. I’ve spoken to a lot of people. I feel like there’s a lot of work to do to get up to speed in learning.”

Tomlinson said in his four-year term he looks forward to improving the public perception of the board and the whole district, much of which is due to the recent deficit. He said he wants to make financial decisions that help student achievement by helping teachers and staff.

In an earlier interview, Blank said she is concerned with relieving the district of the $5 million deficit and bridging the achievement gap between minority and other students.

Storch said there is no way to know what will happen in this upcoming term, but there are a couple things she aims to do.

“I would like to see the final closing of achievement gap,” Storch said. “I would like to see us write off the budget deficit. Those aren’t impossible things. They will happen.”